24-year-old Aaron Swartz of Cambridge was indicted Tuesday by federal prosecutors on charges of wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer.
If convicted, he could face up to 35 years in prison.
Read: The Indictment (.pdf)
“The indictment alleges that between September 24, 2010, and January 6, 2011, Swartz contrived to break into a restricted computer wiring closet in a basement at MIT and to access MIT’s network without authorization from a computer switch within that closet,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston said in a statement.
Prosecutors say Swartz was trying to download a “major portion” of an archive of digitized academic journals onto his computers and hard drives and intended to distribute them on file-sharing web sites.
The network storing the articles, JSTOR, is a not-for-profit archive of scientific journals and academic work.
“Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away,” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in the statement.
Prosecutors say, at this point, it appears no personal information was stolen in the thefts.
Swartz pleaded not guilty in court.